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Watching the Oscars, did you know?

by Mary Stucke

The most glamorous job of the Academy Awards was performed by a Certified Public Accountant!

Yes, that’s right; some lucky Certified Public Accountants (CPA) had to count the award ballots for the Academy Awards, the annual award show presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  During awards season, the accountants assigned to the job are sought-after by celebrities and sometimes field hundreds of requests for interviews.  The accountants were also required to be backstage to hand out the envelopes to the dozens of high-profile stars at the gala event of the year.  With all the television cameras circling the event, it can be likely that at least one will put these CPAs on television in front of an audience of a billion people.  Did you see them?!

Who is allowed to vote for the awards?

The answer is that only the 6,000 or so qualified members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) are allowed to vote.  Membership in the organization is by invitation only.  The ballots for nominations are mailed to qualified voting members of the AMPAS in late December and are mailed back to the CPAs.  The votes are tabulated and the nominations are announced about six weeks before the show.

The final ballots are sent out at least a month before the award show and again returned to the CPAs.

Behind locked doors the accountants manually tabulate the results.  Two selected accountants have the ultimate responsibly for checking the results and sealing them in two sets of duplicate envelopes.  These accountants are also required to memorize the results in case something happens to the award envelopes before or during the awards show.  At the show, they are also backstage handing out envelopes just before the presenters go out on stage.

The balloting process for the Academy Awards may seem complex, but the stakes are high on Oscar night.  It has been reported that the value of the Best Picture Award exceeds $100 million in “incremental box office.”  The impact on the careers of actors, directors and screenwriters can be equally substantial.

But remember, behind the scenes of the Academy Awards, the accountants are the ones who make it all possible by ensuring the integrity and secrecy of the balloting process.

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